Acceptance Speech: Dr. Stephen Kent

ICSA International Conference, June 15, 2012, Montreal

Acceptance Speech—Margaret Singer Award

Dr. Stephen A. Kent

I am surprised about receiving this award, especially since so many more-talented people are here at this conference and in this room this evening. I thank you all for your generosity.

One aspect of my background, however, that does give credence to my receiving the Margaret Singer Award is that I had the privilege of spending considerable time with her and her files during the last years of her life. You would be correct to imagine that, in doing so, I acquired a few stories about Margaret and her fight against abuse and abusers. Then, of course, there were the other stories.

In a different setting, in a different time, perhaps I would tell you the story of Margaret and her machine gun or Margaret and her hand grenade. Possibly I would recount the tale about Margaret and the mafia boss. Instead, I will tell one story that shows how clever and tough Margaret could be.

She was being deposed by a lawyer/member of a particularly litigious group. We will call this lawyer Benny Nixon. If you ever have been deposed, then you know how unpleasant, even intimidating, the experience can be. In Margaret’s case, she was in a room in a law office, sitting around a table with lawyers from both sides.

The room, however, did have a window that looked out onto grass, trees, a few flowers, and occasional birds. As the opposing attorney, Mr. Nixon, was about to begin questioning, Margaret spun around from the table and started staring out the window.

Immediately, Mr. Nixon commanded, “Dr. Singer, look at me when I ask you questions.” Calmly, but with some calculation, Margaret replied, “Mr. Nixon, show me where in the Rules of Civil Procedure it says that a person being deposed has to look at the person asking the questions.”

At that moment, words escaped Mr. Nixon: He was speechless. His co-counsel, however, apparently was suppressing his laughter so much that he was snorting. In any case, the deposition began, and Margaret stared out the window the entire time.

I thank you again for this honor; and I do hope that my own work aspires to the standards that Margaret set in the struggle against abuse, manipulation, and deception.